The Danish Girl Review
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Last year, Eddie Redmayne captivated audiences with his performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything—a role that earned him a well-deserved Oscar. Now he’s back with another daring role—and another noteworthy performance—in director Tom Hooper’s latest, The Danish Girl.

The Danish Girl tells the true story of Danish artists Einar and Gerda Wegener (Redmayne and Alicia Vikander), whose relationship is tested after a playful prank reveals a long-kept secret. When Gerda disguises Einar as a young woman named Lili to attend the local artists’ ball, it changes both of them. Lili feels free in her new identity, and Gerda’s sketches and paintings of Lili transform her career. And as Gerda struggles with the fact that she’s lost her husband, she also does whatever she can to help Lili find peace.

The Danish Girl is an artful confection of a period piece—a beautiful mix of colors and textures, of rippling water, vibrant-colored buildings, and lush, draped fabrics. But it’s also a timely film—one whose release couldn’t have been more perfectly planned to coincide with some of the year’s biggest stories. It tackles issues that are still making headlines and sparking discussions today, nearly a century after Lili wrestled with her own identity.

Strangely, though, Lili’s own experiences get very little attention. This may be her story, but she seems more like a background character. She’s such a complex character with an emotional story to tell, yet the film doesn’t explore her side of the transformation in much depth. Redmayne definitely gives a memorable performance in the role—sweet, vulnerable, and self-conscious—but, unfortunately, he’s not given a whole lot to work with. His part of the film seems surprisingly shallow.

Instead, the film seems to focus more on Gerda—on her experiences, her emotions, and her unconventional relationships. While Lili struggles quietly, Gerda struggles out loud. She starts the film as a bold character—one with strength, confidence, and a positive, upbeat spirit—and as she’s forced to balance the demands of her growing career with the challenges in her relationships, she goes through such a wide range of emotions.

These are two wonderfully complex, conflicted characters. But while both are given the strongest possible portrayals, neither one feels fully developed. And the result is a fascinating but surprisingly subdued story.

The Danish Girl could have been a powerful biography, but it never really goes deep enough into the characters’ emotions and experiences. It’s a beautiful film—and a well-acted one, too—but it’s not especially moving.

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